00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

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Dustman
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00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by Dustman » Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:17 pm

While drafting my previous post for the IBO thread, I found myself getting more than a little carried away with trying to analyze the nature of split cours and I ended up overstepping the subject matter. I'm a little self conscious about how dense this ended up being but I'm also quite also quite proud of what I've ended up with and would like to share.

For full context, I'll be including the opening passages regarding IBO's first season that I more or less posted last night. I'm positive that this will require multi-posting so I'm sorry if that is a particularly loathed habit. I promise that I've done my best to remain concise so I hope that this comes off as well composed and easy to follow.

So then, without further ado...
After giving it a few weeks to collect perspective on the complete first season, I feel confident in my assessment that, uh... it's okay? (So far.)

Though I'm hesitant to distract people with personal details, I'd like to clarify my position on this by first saying that I tend not to enjoy open dialogues on a work in progress. The act of consumption hasn't been a communal activity for me in many years. In fact, I feel I may have joined this forum sooner if I had returned to the franchise any earlier in my life.

How that comes back around in relating to Gundam IBO is that I am first and foremost acknowledging it as a work in progress. As early as the first cour, it increasingly seemed to me like IBO was pre-approved for 50 episodes based on the frequency of story beats and lack of structural urgency. Of course, nobody could say that with certainty due to the lack of an official announcement. With the series progressing as it did, I found that this ambiguity was causing me some concern for how badly they could end up botching their execution, particularly during the events of episode 24.

Thankfully, I was vindicated and utterly relieved to see a season finale that ended up not feeling at all rushed, nor grinding to a halt with a cheap cliffhanger. Such has been the trend in shows like Valvrave or Aldnoah Zero and those series in particular seemed to be trying to replicate the chaos of Code Geass, without any of its elasticity and dumb luck in rebounding from circumstance. But even if it were to end up predictably resorting to a timeskip, I feel optimistic about IBO's future now purely from having such a clean shave.

And that's about as much as I'd like to say about the show's actual contents, haha. I want to see the shape it takes before delving in too deep. Speculation is just not as interesting to me as it is to discuss a work with informed perspective. What interests me at the moment is the narrative science of the split cour format. So please just skip the rest of this post if that sounds at all boring and overly indulgent :p
Anyway, lets start with acknowledging that split cours are tricky business. This really did have me worried about IBO. To define what its relationship is to the industrial standard, lets exemplify Gundam 00 and Code Geass as our high profile trendsetters.

Regrettably, I feel like I'm in the minority compared with opinions that are still reverberating but I regard Gundam 00's sensibilities on the split cour format, as well as its execution, to be functionally correct. Code Geass came before it, but unlike 00 being announced as running for 50 episodes, that series became what it is purely through the ping pong'ing of the show's production schedule. And yet despite its off the wall presentation and polarizing reception, I truly believe that Code Geass persevered both as entertainment and as an artistic statement.

On the other hand, I do consider this to be dumb luck. It actually says more about Goro Taniguchi being immensely talented at managing out of control subject material. In the hands of any other director, Code Geass would have collided against the wall like an accordion. Taniguchi instead crafted the anime equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine: ingenious and viscerally curious, but highly improbable and convoluted.

It stands to reason that cynical attempts to replicate this formula have been done without any kind of finesse. This has been further exacerbated with the industry's non-committal shift to one cour seasons, forcing shows like Aldnoah Zero to have violent speedbumps in their plot progression. It's one thing to take a hiatus after 24 episodes of development but with only half that time and a conscious effort to have the cutoff point reflected in the text (just like Code Geass!), you drastically risk curtailing your ability to develop a fluid storytelling relationship with the audience.

This is where 00 succeeds and where many have failed. I think that a lot of what won over so many people about the first season and why it continues to impress is that it was allowed to be a complete experience. It had a beginning, a middle and an ending. There were character arcs, tragic plot twists and an explosive climax. It was not a 100% fully contained story and it left numerous loose ends but the satisfaction gleamed from its finale was a calculated and well earned victory.

Which is why I sincerely believe that the second season's change of setting is not what bothers people on a subconscious level. That would be the most obvious difference and is often attributed as the underlying cause for disappointment. Of course, this is a perfectly rational response since both SEED Destiny and the Zeta movies were fresh at the time and a third reprisal of that base setting was pushing it. However, this is only a failure relative to its time of release. More importantly, the second season was not a self-sustaining arc and it suffered from a complete dependency on its predecessor.

So while 00's first season can reasonably be considered to be its own series, the second is burdened with existing both as a separate arc and as a necessary continuation. It's a natural consequence then that the "double O's" ended up looking quite a bit disproportionate in their ability to tell a story. Putting aside grievances with execution, your level of satisfaction with the second is thematically predicated on your willingness to accept duality over symmetry. In this sense, were you to distribute greater capital to the second half, 00 begins to function as complete series.

Yet even then, with the existence of a third chapter, I do not think that its story can be said to be truly whole without it. As such, I would argue that "A wakening of the Trailblazer" is even further underestimated in its artistic accomplishments. Not only does it serve to elevate the existing material by returning the series to a unique setting, it also serves to equalize the two halves and compliments them by pushing its concluding themes of peace and understanding to their utmost extreme. (An 0 Raiser to the Twin Drives, if you will.)

The 00 movie is singularly radical for its brand-defying conflict with extraterrestrials. But where it shines, where it does something so truly revolutionary that will it never be repeated again, is how it finally, uncompromisingly identifies and subverts the franchise's hypocrisy of peace through submission.

The only other series to end with a justified depiction of pacifism, and in the only way possible within the constraints of human conflict, was Turn A Gundam. But even that lacks 00's idealistic triumph and totality, instead taking satisfaction in the the fleeting beauty and the uncertain promise of a continued existence. Aside from personal aesthetics regarding subtlety, not one of these things is especially superior the other but these two shows alone are alike in their commitment to inspiring progress.
Last edited by Dustman on Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Dustman
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by Dustman » Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:19 pm

I really think that 00 could be argued as the best long form Gundam series of the last 15 years. I do also acknowledge its imperfections, but the scope of its ambition and its checklist of accomplishments have left it thematically complete. And besides which, to be perfectly honest, it's not like it really has all that much competition. Even the first Gundam SEED and (to a much lesser extent, as an example of evergreen quality) SEED Destiny, which were monstrously popular upon release and to this day enjoy support from a dedicated fanbase, remain fiercely polarizing in their persuasiveness. More recently, Gundam Unicorn has garnered mainstream recognition for its high production quality but will likely be detracted by fans on the basis of adaptation. Elsewhere, AGE has more or less already been buried and Reconguista is likely to flourish primarily as a cult favorite.

It seems like no surprise then that the most universally beloved series in that time has thus far been Gundam Build Fighters, the brainchild of 00's own Yosuke Kuroda. What is surprising about it though, is the degree to which its sequel, Gundam Build Fighters Try, failed to measure up with its predecessor. And even if your opinions about how his previous series turned out are less than flattering, I think this one is significantly more disorienting.

To start with, Try actually defies classification in being an interlocking split cour season like 00 (and presumably IBO) but neither is it a direct sequel like Gundam ZZ or SEED Destiny. Strangely, perhaps as a some combination of being abruptly commissioned with only six months of resource allocation and a likely non-competition policy to support the lavishly budgeted Reconguista, it forgoes the conventions of a proper sequel all together. Build Fighters Try instead pursued a formulaic setting with very few returning characters, a lack of complimentary themes and a smaller tournament scale. In fact, it is so linear that it lacks a catalyst for external drama of any kind (i.e. Devil Gundam, Arian).

While satisfaction with the respective qualities of 00's chapters is up for debate, I think Build Fighters Try is in a unique position for how completely inconsequential it is. The Zetas and the SEEDs were rebranded to reflect the change in perspective while 00 was not, but those shows were still vital in their attempts to expand upon an existing story. In stark contrast, Try's relationship to the first Build Fighters has such tangential overlap that it's not much more than a spinoff. In my opinion, Try falls far shorter than any other Gundam sequel because of this. But despite being a disappointment, the fact that it ended up taking so few risks and did very little in diminishing the appeal of original is also perhaps what saved it from having a harsher reception.

From the examples noted, it is clear that the split cour format has had some decidedly mixed results. For the mecha genre, every success is seemingly met with two or three failures. For Gundam in particular, I actually think that the results could have been much worse. But all the same, this isn't going away any time soon. The industry has ingrained this format out of necessity, to support an inundated assembly line production and to ration the availability of a shrinking workforce. And after the fiasco that surrounded Gundam AGE, it appears unlikely that Sunrise can or ever will commit to another continuous one year production if the economics don't improve.

On the bright side, if any Gundam series can turn the format on its head and deliver a linear narrative, I think it might end up being Iron-Blooded Orphans. Where 00 began right out of the gate with complex war games before centralizing its factions under the Earth Federation, and where Build Fighters Try dialed itself back from the world championship to the junior nationals, IBO has been nothing if not slow and steady. By committing to character development the way it has, the second season has every option to capitulate on its groundwork. In a way, the blandness of the season could end up being its greatest strength if that turned out by design.

While I have been very lukewarm on IBO and would describe the flavor as being not unlike toasted kale, it has done many things right. Despite some clumsy staging ("Why no, Akihiro. You never did tell us about your brother. But at least now we can compartmentalize this for when it becomes relevant. After all, a hack writer would probably drag him into the story imme-- OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!") it also gracefully avoided the fundamental wrongness which plagued the previous 50ish episode series, Gundam AGE. Such is that compared to a meandering first act like Flit's, even during IBO's episodes on Mars, Nagai and Okada appeared to be self-assured in their incremental developments. And based on the quality of their previous collaborations, it seems like I can trust that their pacing will pay itself off in the end. The worst it could get without total collapse is that it will move no faster than it already has.

And now, to give definition to my ideal scenario, what I want the most out of this series isn't really a demand of the content but actually to see a return to the traditional 50 episode serial. My one personal grievance with 00 is that it thrives on its first season or as a trilogy and nothing else in between. It works, but the structure is just too specific. At this point in the post-SEED formatting experiment, it would be nice to see a new Gundam series that subverts the generational gimmicks and can once more deliver a solid, straightforward narrative.

And now, with all said, I think that my obsessiveness in fine tuning this article has driven even myself quite mad. In fact, at some point while writing the sections about Build Fighters Try, I absent mindedly wrote a poem to tie in with my pre-prepared closing statement. Please, allow me to append it as a reward for making it this far. (I look forward to having it graffiti'd on my tombstone. Such punishment is only fitting.)
Spoiler
Show
Try more, Try pain, like Try'ing tears in the rain. An eye for a Try but don't be mean, a million Try's are worth this dream. But after all is Try'd and true, perhaps for those who Try'd renew, lets agree and Try not anew.
Last edited by Dustman on Sun Apr 17, 2016 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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battletech
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by battletech » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:51 pm

Great read Dustman. A well thought out and intelligent analysis on split cour mecha shows. Stuff like this is why I come to the forum.
"The souls of Man are weighed down by gravity." - Char Aznable
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monster
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by monster » Thu Apr 14, 2016 11:00 pm

Build Fighters and Build Fighters Try are more like SEED and SEED Destiny, i.e. a series and its sequel series, rather than an actual split series like 00.

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Amion
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by Amion » Fri Apr 15, 2016 4:24 pm

I don't know what to say to that last poem, Dustman, except that you've made my day.:D
They don't know the power of a balanced vision.

Dustman
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by Dustman » Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:42 pm

Oh man, I'm noticing a few more grammatical slips that I didn't catch before pasting the text. How embarrassing. Hmm, I think I'll go back and tweak some of that up just a little...
monster wrote:Build Fighters and Build Fighters Try are more like SEED and SEED Destiny, i.e. a series and its sequel series, rather than an actual split series like 00.
Oh yeah, this is certainly the case and I've made sure to draw that distinction in the relevant passages. In retrospect, I admit that I probably should have instead framed the topic as analyzing the duality of second seasons. Split cours are a bit more specific and I think to the extent that I covered them outside of 00, I ended up putting a greater emphasis on how it has adversely impacted 24 episode mecha shows.

Nevertheless, I feel as though I had to dedicate some time to discussing BFT because I find it interesting when compared with the connective tissue (the so-called "membrane" through which nutrients are shared) that exists between the two seasons of 00. That's because Try exists as if it were not even specifically designed to be a direct sequel like ZZ or Destiny, but instead like it is a mere spinoff that really settles against doing anything to expand the setting and original story of the previous series. And for a Gundam sequel that has such clearly defined continuity, I think that this is pretty darned unusual.

monster
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by monster » Sun Apr 17, 2016 5:10 pm

Dustman wrote:Nevertheless, I feel as though I had to dedicate some time to discussing BFT because I find it interesting when compared with the connective tissue (the so-called "membrane" through which nutrients are shared) that exists between the two seasons of 00. That's because Try exists as if it were not even specifically designed to be a direct sequel like ZZ or Destiny, but instead like it is a mere spinoff that really settles against doing anything to expand the setting and original story of the previous series. And for a Gundam sequel that has such clearly defined continuity, I think that this is pretty darned unusual.
I would consider Build Fighters Try as a sequel to Build Fighters because it moves the timeline forward without breaking continuity from the earlier work.

As for whether or not it's a spinoff, that's a bit more complicated for me to judge. However, it's possible to be both a sequel and a spinoff as long as there is a significant connection between the two stories, which definitely applies in the case of Build Fighters and Build Fighters Try.

The main thing that separates Build Fighters Try from SEED Destiny, ZZ, or even Zeta (as a sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam) is that the previous main character remains an off-screen character in the sequel and, thus, remains largely unaffected by the new plot.

Dustman
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Re: 00, TRY, IBO and Membranes of the Split Cour

Post by Dustman » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:17 pm

monster wrote:I would consider Build Fighters Try as a sequel to Build Fighters because it moves the timeline forward without breaking continuity from the earlier work.

As for whether or not it's a spinoff, that's a bit more complicated for me to judge. However, it's possible to be both a sequel and a spinoff as long as there is a significant connection between the two stories, which definitely applies in the case of Build Fighters and Build Fighters Try.

The main thing that separates Build Fighters Try from SEED Destiny, ZZ, or even Zeta (as a sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam) is that the previous main character remains an off-screen character in the sequel and, thus, remains largely unaffected by the new plot.
Well, that's the problem. I'm hesitant to call Try a direct sequel because it doesn't craft an interlocking continuity.

ZZ concludes the conflict with Axis and gives us an informed knowledge on why Char could possibly have been driven to punish the Federation the way he did in CCA. Endless Waltz gives us character backgrounds that were cut from Wing's original series plan. SEED Destiny attempts to show us that the racial tensions from the first series would naturally persist and requires drastic measures to reach a resolution. 00's two seasons are the most interconnected in exploring Celestial Being's hypocrisy and taking responsibility for the consequences of forcing radical change on a world not yet ready to accept it.

Build Fighters Try is about three kids and one of them is the younger brother of a wallflower from the previous series. That's pretty much all there is to it. Sei and Reiji never actually return and we get no mention of Arian that would further explain what exactly it was. We never get to see how Fellini and Kirara's relationship turned out and we never even get a follow-up on the Gunpla Mafia.

The most that we do have are a few legacy characters like Ral, Meijin or Lucas and a cameo from Nils. That's it. You don't have to know anything about the previous series to understand the story. There is no complimentary overlap. In terms of relational dependency, it is a sequel to nothing despite having a shared setting.

Although I didn't like BFT, that isn't exactly a knock against it. In fact, my disappointment with it is far less than it would have been if they had been way more ambitious than they were. The rushed production schedule would be unforgiving if, for example, the series had progressed exactly like it did only for a reveal that Sekai's master was Sei or Reiji. Something like that would have been nonsensical, blatant pandering that would have raised countless questions and satisfied absolutely nobody. (Instead, it was Domon Kasshu, which I guess is... better? Comparatively speaking.)

Don't take any of this as a profound meditation or anything. We'd only end up going in circles from here. But this is what I mean when I say that Try doesn't exactly work as a direct sequel. In fact, my reason for arguing this is that I find the series more satisfying as a spinoff. That lack of dependency is where it doesn't have to be burdened with expectations.

However, this could all be fixed with a third season! I honestly thought this was their attempt to launch a sub-franchise. That has yet to be seen, but a third season would pretty clearly define Build Fighters as a generational continuity, much like Late Universal Century, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure or like every other "toy and game"-based program. But, as it stands, with only two Build Fighters shows, this is my own personal way of reconciling it :p

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